Report finds worrisome arsenic levels in rice

Raquel Erhard – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Los Angeles, CA, United States (4E) – Responding to a recent warning by Consumer Reports research that discovered significant levels of arsenic in rice and other rice-based products, a group of Democrats submitted last Friday a bill proposing federal limits on the harmful component.

In a joint statement, Representatives Rosa De Lauro of Connecticut, Frank Pallone of New Jersey and Nita Lowey of New York said that the said legislation would call for the Food and Drug Administration to set a maximum permissible amount of arsenic in foods with rice.

Only bottled waters are regulated by FDA on arsenic limits, but legislators hope to change that with the Rice Act, known officially as the Reducing Food-based Inorganic and Organic Compounds Exposure Act.

Consumer Reports report urged consumers to cut back on rice consumption because of the alarming research results in which hints of inorganic arsenic elements were found in more than 200 popular products tested such as brown and white rice and rice-based infant cereals, pastas, drinks and crackers.

According to the product-testing agency, inorganic arsenic is a known carcinogen for humans, it is less toxic but still “of concern.”

A larger data base is needed to do the kinds of risk analysis to carefully investigate the nature and extent of the problem, said FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg. She added that preliminary data exhibited arsenic levels as high as Consumer Reports, but differs from product to product.

FDA said that they find no immediate threat based on the available data but recommended that people eat a balanced diet containing a wide variety of grains and that there is no need, at this time, to change the usual individual’s rice-eating habit.

The agency said about 1,200 rice products are being examined for arsenic content.

According to the FDA, arsenic is distributed in the Earth’s crust, released from volcanoes and from erosion of mineral deposits, as well as through mining, pesticides and the burning of coal, oil, gasoline and wood.

Environment Working Group, a research and advocacy organization, advised consumers to combine alternative grains into their diets and to boil brown rice in large amounts of water because it tends to be more susceptible to arsenic.

USA Rice Federation is closely working with FDA to examine arsenic levels. The rice agency reminded consumers that rice products which have been feeding billions of people for thousands of years, have never been positively linked to any adverse health effects.

Some experts are waiting for more studies on the link between rice and arsenic before proposing any dietary habits.

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